Saturday, October 24, 2009

Heisman's "Three Showstoppers"

Last month, Dan Heisman's column at ("The Three Show Stoppers") set a lightbulb off for me. Which is odd, because he's discussing issues of time management, piece safety and piece activity that he's written about before. However, these concepts came together to form a "perfect storm" of chess instruction.

A theme of Heisman's is that there are certain basic skills such as time management and playing what Heisman calls "real chess" consistently on every move of the game. The trick, of course, is consistently. If 49 moves out of 50 you play properly, and 1 move out of 50 you launch a stinkbomb of a move because you moved too fast or a piece was hanging, then your chess strength is severely diminished. I think that, for most people, working on improving this aspect of their game will likely produce greater dividends than just about any other chess-related activity.

Easily said, but as the byline of this blog says: "Do as I say, not as I do." It takes gumption to work on this, and if most of your chess is online blitz then you're not going to be able to play "real chess" a la Heisman unless you're pretty gifted. However, in this column Heisman reduces the essentials to three principles:
  • Time Management: not moving too fast or too slow, but using the appropriate amount of time for each move
  • Safety
  • Piece Activity

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mate in Two

The following Mate in Two problem is from Yusupov's Build Up Your Chess I, and I think it's the hardest mate in two problem I've come across so far.

I'm not going to give away the answer, but it's a good test of your ability to analyze a dense thicket of short variations.

Laszlo Polgar's Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations, and Games has a ton of mate-in-two problems in it, and I occasionally turn to a random page and try to solve some. Some of them are really devilish, and are good practice for practicing Kotov-like analysis (trying to analyze each branch of a variation once and only once).

I'm going to try and get a couple more chapters of Yusupov's book knocked out this afternoon.